FEATURE: Chao Phraya – a floating food world

Alan Haig Brown
Alan Haig Brown

For many years, the Supatra River House on the Chao Phrya River, has been a favourite with Thai and foreign diners. Situated on the Thonburi side of the river, the most favoured approach to the restaurant is by boat.

To that end, the owner, Khun Supapan maintains a fleet of beautifully restored Chao Phraya River water taxis. These can pickup dinners from their riverside hotels or any one of the Express Boat docks, including Tha Maharaj pier on the Bangkok side across from the Supatra River House.

These elegant slim 12- by 2.5-metre wooden boats display the Thai tradition of craftsmanship from the rounded settee in the stern to the extreme rake of their bows. Open to the sides, they are roofed from the pilot statin back to the stern. Entrance is near to amidships with steps down to both forward and aft passenger areas.

An oval, wood-encased compartment in the aft passenger area contains the single 150-HP Cummins 6BTA-M diesel engine linked to a ZF gear. This gives the boat an ample 12-knot speed for trips up and down or across the spectacular section of the legendary Chao Phrya River that flows through the palaces and temples of modern day Bangkok.

Not satisfied with having one of the finest restaurants on the riverside, Khun Supapan recently commissioned a very tidy dinner cruise vessel. Smaller than the huge dinner boats that feed hundreds of tour-bus groups in a single setting, the Supanniga Cruise seats 66 guest on the main deck and 24 on an upper deck. A compact and efficient galley in the stern of the lower deck turns out meals comparable to those classical Thai creations of the Supatra House.

For reliable power in moving the 18 by 5-meter steel-hulled vessel in the river currents, another single 150-HP Cummins 6BTA-M is mounted in an engine room accessed by stairs from the galley. Again, the engine is coupled to a ZF gear that gives the boat a comfortable seven-knot cruising speed. Two silencing-shrouded generators, a 20 and a 10 kW, are also mounted in the vessel’s hull.

Another vessel to cater to luxurious travel from hotels to the city’s transportation infrastructure, or to any of the riverside restaurants, is the new Supapan #4. This 16- by 3.5-metre carvel planked beauty demonstrates that a plumb bow and beamier hull can also display elegance and tasteful harmony on the water. Teak has become a rare commodity in Thailand and is used here for the bright finished decks and sheer plank. The rest of the cream-coloured hull is planked with takien, (Hopea odorata) a wood noted for similar longevity to teak. Framing for the boat is teng (Shorea obtusa) wood.

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